Analysis of the Hero's Journey in Avatar

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The Journey of Avatar: The Hero’s Journey within James Cameron’s Avatar

Pandora. Within James Cameron’s Avatar, it is a world filled with wildly exotic plants and animals, often with little resemblance to our own world of Earth. It, like Earth, harbors it’s own sentient species, called the Na’vi. However, the Na’vi are a much more primitive race than humans, and do not react well to human technology and disregard to nature. The movie follow Jake Sully, an unfortunately disabled marine who’s twin brother was a leader in the Avatar program, which consisted of transferring human minds into Na’vi bodies, intended to help improve relations with the native Na’vi. However, Jake’s brother is unfortunately murdered in a mugging, but their identical DNA allows Jake to take his place. Jake, while totally untrained for such a task, accepts the job and, in a fit of irony, ends up being the one ‘human’ Na’vi accepted amongst the natives. Through a long series of events that will be reviewed here, he eventually switches sides and leads the Na’vi in driving the humans from Pandora, and transfers into his Avatar body so he can be with his lover. There are two hero’s journeys within Avatar, the first being Jake’s goal of being accepted into the Na’vi’s society, the second with pushing the humans from Pandora.

To begin, the Call to Adventure within the first journey is the scene in which Jake is watching his brother’s body be cremated, and is offered to replace his brother on Pandora. The call itself is of course the offer to be part of the Avatar program on Pandora, even if he does not know the ultimate goal yet. There is no Refusal of the Call, as he immediately accepts said offer and sets off for Pandora.

The Supernatural Aid within the first journey is his mentors in the Avatar program, namely Grace Augustine, leader of the Avatar program, and Norm Spellman, another avatar ‘pilot’ and scientist. Both help him as he gets used to using his avatar, and continue to help him throughout the movie.

Another character that could represent Supernatural Aid would be Neytiri, the first Na’vi Jake meets, and heir to the spiritual leader of the main Na’vi clan. Neytiri helps Jake through his integration into the Na’vi society, and eventually reveals herself to be Jake’s lover. She teaches him the Na’vi language, their culture, and leads him all the way through his rite of passage. However, she does not become a guide until after the Belly of the Whale and Crossing of the First Threshold, so the more correct examples would be Grace and Norm.

The scene in which Jake is chased into the forest by a thanator, described by James Cameron as being a “panther from Hell,” fits immediately into the mold of the Belly of the Whale. It is easily Jake’s lowest point, because he is lost in an unfamiliar forest, on an almost totally unknown planet, with a single knife and the clothes on his back. He is totally cut off from his previous world, with no way to get back to it or even contact it.

Having been lost in the forest for a decent part of the night, Jake is not quite confronted by a Na’vi, namely Neytiri. I say not quite because he is almost shot with a poisoned arrow from her hidden perch in a tree. However, a sign is given to Neytiri, and not only does she not shoot Jake, but saves him and later takes him to the two leaders of her clan and her own parents. The represents the Crossing of the First Threshold, in that Jake is now firmly out of the known world of his society and race. No one has had this chance or opportunity before, and he has no idea how to navigate it. This ties in to the second example of Supernatural Aid, as Neytiri is a far more influential guide than Grace or Norm, but does not come in until after the Belly of the Whale, and into the Road of Trials.

Now that Jake has crossed the First Threshold, he is now firmly on the Road of Trials. He is undergoing a strict regime of learning the language, culture, and skills of the Na’vi,...
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